The way I see it - Manchester United v Arsenal

Last updated : 30 November 2004 By Jason Hogan

On Sunday evening there would have been hordes of Arsenal fans travelling back to London in that exact situation and you can bet that many of them would have been cursing non-stop as to how cruel the game of football can be.

On the face of things I couldn't say that I would entirely blame them if they felt that way given that they had travelled the best part of 200 miles only to see the Arsenal lose thanks to precious little more than a hopeful, once in a lifetime pot shot with a matter of seconds to go.

However what I CAN also say is that I felt genuinely sorry for our travelling fans as well. Why? Because, in spite of the way our defeat came about I would be lying if I said that the Arsenal didn't deserve what they got in the end - which of course was nothing.

Anfield may not be quite the same place it once was. I think that we saw to that when we went up there and beat them on that famous night back in 1989 but, no matter how good a visiting side happens to be, Anfield is not and will never be the sort of place where you can expect to get a result if you take liberties.

And, you certainly can't go there and expect to be on anything less than hiding to nothing if you show the lack of drive, belief and fortitude that certain individuals in Arsenal shirts showed up there particularly in the first hour or so.

Too many people went AWOL during the game and I think that young Reyes and especially Robert Pires will particularly want to forget Sunday's game more than most.

Pires looked like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights for most of the game. He seemed to be far too conscious of being tackled instead of getting on and actually playing the game properly and whenever he did get possession of the ball he was constantly in a rush to get rid of it.

As for young Reyes, well, we all know what the boy is capable of and he does genuinely have the heart of a lion but from a physical point of view he is not the type of guy who was going to relieve pressure by holding the ball up front for us whilst defenders are snapping around his ankles. Though he was often muscled out of things at least he tried to compete. It just wasn't his day.

I did feel for young Fabregas though. For all his undoubted talent I think that the game at Anfield was perhaps a game too far for the lad at this stage in his development and he was often out muscled and outfought in midfield in the same way that Reyes was up front.

If it wasn't particularly a good day for Reyes, Pires and Fabregas then it would be fair to say that Patrick Vieira's day was decidedly mixed. He scored a goal that was as good as you will ever see but he was guilty of crass stupidity in getting booked the way he did. And, what of his swan dive later on in the game? Paddy, I was embarrassed for you, mate. The only sad part is that he was NOT actually dismissed for it because instead of being banned for Wednesday's game, he will now miss the game against the Phoney Russian Franchise on Sunday week.

Perhaps the most galling aspect of what happened at Anfield was the fact that I found myself having to take back my theory that the Arsenal find themselves in a no-win situation most of the time. Because the real truth is that we are in a no-win situation ALL the time.

When the Arsenal went the whole of last season unbeaten in the league and, by way of a positive statistic, racked up 49 games unbeaten over all, large sections of the press and the media were reluctant to wholeheartedly acknowledge those feats and elected instead to swear blind that the standard of the Premiership was poor in spite of the obscene amounts of money that some of our rivals had spent in comparison to us.

Yet, it's only now when the unbeaten run has given way to what is, for us, an indifferent period that has culminated in us going to Anfield and losing in the league for only the SECOND time in our last 55 games, that the press and the media have suddenly found the enthusiasm to unreservedly trot out all the negative statistics about us they can lay their hands on.

And of course, in the light of how things stand in the league right now, what has happened to their passionate arguments on the poor standard of the Premiership? They have suddenly been swept under the carpet as if they never existed. Funny that, Arsenal fans, don't you think?

As I have been saying for a while now, January is going to be crucial to how our season pans out. There is no doubt that we need to acquire a new centre back but if there are no signs of improvement in Gilberto's condition and Edu fails to sign a new deal by then, we may have to address the task of bringing in a new central midfielder as well.

I know that these are fairly uneasy times for us Gooners and there is a possibility that things could get a little worse before they get better. But nobody is going to tell me a team that has been the most successful in this country over the last three years is suddenly a spent force just because they happen to be going through their first indifferent spell in eighteen months. It's nothing short of absurd.

The saving grace for us when we go to Old Trafford on Wednesday none of our beleaguered first team regulars will be putting themselves and their supposedly flawed reputations on the line.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the kids strut their stuff and it will be interesting to see how they take to the surroundings they will be playing in. They have done themselves and the club proud in the previous two rounds and regardless of the actual result I think that all Gooners can enjoy the game safe in the knowledge that the future us bright.

Go get ‘em kids!